Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Much as I despise the vast majority of them, I have always assumed that politicians - particularly those that make it to the heart of Government - cannot be completely stupid. I mean, if they were truly thick, how would they manage to scheme and plot their way to power in the first place?

Sadly, this article in the Telegraph is forcing me to reconsider. It seems that Dawn Primarolo, public health minister in Gordon Brown-Trousers' increasingly out of touch government, thinks that shops should be forced to take cigarettes and other tobacco products off display - if they want to sell them at all, they would have to be kept out of sight under the counter.

Primarolo said, "It's vital we get across the message to children that smoking is bad. If that means stripping out vending machines or removing cigarettes from behind the counter, I'm willing to do that." I note that she doesn't bother to ask whether the rest of the British public are similarly willing. After all, she's a born-again health fascist - how could anyone possibly disagree with her?

Well, I could, for a start. Firstly, kids don't start smoking because they see cigs on sale in a shop. They start smoking because their mates, parents and relatives smoke and they get in on the act by "borrowing" one or two smokes from the people around them. Only then, when they have tried it and decided that they like it, do they invest any of their own cash.

Secondly, kids are a bit brighter than Prawn Dimarolo. Despite the best efforts of the education system, many of them can read and there are bloody big health warnings on every packet of cigarettes sold. As if that isn't enough, they are surrounded by a constant barrage of propaganda and threats about the risks of smoking. Kids KNOW what smoking is supposed to do, and hiding them under the counter is not going to discourage them from lighting up one little bit.

On the other hand, it will glamorise the act of obtaining smokes. The cool and trendy kids in the gang will be the ones who manage to get their hands on 20 Silk Cut to consume over their equally ill-gotten alcohol - you know, much like the ones who get their hands on any amount of other completely illegal narcotics. Funny how not being able to see Heroin in the newsagent doesn't stop people - including a fair few in the House of Commons, I suspect - from obtaining it, isn't it?

It will also cause chaos in busy shops and petrol stations. Picture the scene - you're queuing up to pay the grossly inflated, tax-heavy price of filling up your shame-ridden 4x4 when, in front of you, a similarly engaged victim of government sponsored highway robbery asks for 20 Lambert & Butler. The cashier reaches behind her, flicks them off the shelf and over the scanner in one practised movement, and the transaction is complete.

Now let's try that again with the cigarettes hidden out of view under the counter:
Customer "20 Lamberts, please"
Cashier [dives under counter, scrabbles around, emerges] "Sorry, we haven't got any"
Customer "20 Bensons, then, please"
Cashier [dives under counter, scrabbles around, emerges] "Sorry, we haven't got any of them either"
Customer "Well, what have you got?"
Cashier [dives under counter, scrabbles around, muffled voice] "Berkley Blue, Berkley Red, Berkley Green, Embassy Filter, Embassy ..."

It won't be long before someone (maybe you) gets very, very annoyed, will it? This utterly stupid idea is bad for customers, whether they are smokers or not, bad for shop keepers and, worse, will not have any impact on the number of people who smoke. It's control for control's sake, and nothing more.

The idea is to further ostracise the already-beleaguered smoker, of course. Not content with forcing them to step outside if they want to light up, and considering the possibility of imposing a smokers' licence, this fascist government now wants them to experience feelings of shame and guilt as they surreptitiously ask for a perfectly legal product.

According to Wikipedia, "Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers the individual subordinate to the interests of the state, party or society as a whole. Fascists seek to forge a type of national unity, usually based on (but not limited to) ethnic, cultural, racial, and/or religious attributes."

Yep, I'd say the NuLab Gordon Brown-Trousers government fits that description rather well, and their treatment of individuals' rights just about proves it. As for Dawn Prime-A-Rollup, well, she started out in the political hard-left, giving her the nickname Red Dawn - not difficult to see where her true ambitions lie, is it? Control, control, control, and suppression in the name of ... well, whatever crap New Labour dreams up today. According to the Daily Mail, MP John Reid, having got a few drinks down him, propositioned the young Primarolo a few times in the late 80s and early 90s, and fear of this indiscretion leaking was one reason for his failure to challenge Gordon Brown-Trousers' succession to the NuLab leadership. There's no accounting for taste, but I can understand why he'd need a little Dutch courage before making his move!

Apparently, Primarolo's bizarre under-the-counter policy is going by the name "out of sight, out of mind", although, if ministers really think that smokers won't buy tobacco if they can't see it they really have lost the plot. Even so, the name is apt; those nutcases that have concocted the idea, and those that support it, are so far out of their minds that they couldn't see sanity with a really big telescope.

Billy Seggars.

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